Friday, November 11, 2011

Winter Flowering South African Bulbs

I 'm a huge fan of the South African flora.  It's hard not to be.  Some of the world's most beloved horticultural subjects have come from here, but this biodiversity hotspot has a seemingly endless supply of choice horticultural subjects still left to offer.  At the encouragement and generosity of a friend, I ventured into the world of the winter-growing growing neophytes, with a focus on the Iridaceae.  My collection has continued to expand.

The South African equivalent of Hyacinth, Lachenalia is a speciose genus displaying one of the widest flower color spectrums of any genus of flowering plants on earth;  Lachenalia viridiflora is one of the best of all.  It's easy to see why.  The sky blue flowers, with hint of aquamarine, surely stand as one of the most unique organisms yet to come from the angiosperm lineage.  This flower color is particularly hard to capture with a camera, but the following image is pretty close to a real-life glimpse.

The opulent Lachenalia viridiflora

Perhaps the most stunning plant in this collection in Lapeirousia oreogena

Another view of Lapeirousia oreogena; it's dwarf habit is retained in cultivation, making it exceptionally choice

This is a Haemanthus albiflos x Haemanthus spp. hybrid that was developed by a friend in Akron, OH.  These plants are flowering for the first time this year.  Attempts at producing an F2 generation failed as self-pollination was not successful.  I could not cross pollinate my two plants because the flowers on the plant shown failed to open properly.  No matter though, as the foliage is the  main attraction of this plant.

The showy bracts of the Haemanthus hybrid inflorescence that failed to open.

One of the best things about these winter flowering bulbs is that, if enough diversity is represented in a given collection, the flowers last from October until May.  More to come...